Pretoria - The historic Tshwane Events Centre – valued at more than R500 million – has recently come under attack from vandals, who stole almost every electric cable, leaving the place in the dark and forcing security guards to use torches during their night patrols.
Concerned residents expressed concern that the property, located on WF Nkomo and Soutter streets, had become a shadow of its former self due to plundering by vandals.
The Pretoria News was told that the venue had been ransacked by vandals, who stole almost every electric cable.
Some windows were broken and other buildings were doorless due to theft of aluminium materials such as door handles.
Because of the stolen electric cables the place was left in the dark at night, forcing security guards to use torches during their patrols.
The Pretoria News was told that the guards on duty at night are always fearing that someone might ambush them in the dark as there are no functioning lights.
“Everything that they come across they steal for themselves, as long as it is aluminium,” an insider said.
The surroundings of the centre looked neglected and unkempt with tall grass and weeds.
The 39-hectare property used to be under Tshwane Business and Agricultural Corporation (Tshwabac), but it was last year reclaimed by the City of Tshwane after it had been in the hands of the company since 1995.
Formerly known as the Pretoria Showgrounds, the property was for years leased to controversial prophet Shepherd Bushiri’s Enlightened Christian Gathering church, which paid between R800 000 and R1 million a month to use the venue.
Many years ago Tshwabac acquired the property from the municipality at no cost after the City of Tshwane’s predecessor – Pretoria Central Metropolitan Substructure – resolved to transfer it to the company.
Last year, the City reacquired the property following a lengthy legal fight with Tshwabac, which at some point wanted to sell the property when it could no longer afford to run it due to financial difficulties.
At some stage the company was in arrears of municipal rates and taxes amounting to about R12 258 275 and it had initially wanted to sell the property for R211 million to be able to service its debts.
Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic two years back, the property was also used by Unisa students to write their exams. However, since the institution decided to have exams written online the place was kept closed because there were no activities.
One concerned resident said that over the past few months the property has been “neglected to the point where vagrants are now breaking in and stripping these buildings”.
“There seems to be absolutely no security. Last week during the day we noticed people passing the chairs over the fence.
“This is what prompted me to do something,” the resident said.
“These halls were used for exams, warehousing, weddings, trade shows, etc.. If something is not done urgently these buildings will become like Schubart Park. These are fantastic buildings ideal to be converted into a business park or so. Let’s not allow the City to destroy one of its most valuable assets,” said the resident.
City chief of staff Jordan Griffiths said parts of the property were in a poor state when the municipality had ownership returned.
He said there were 12 full-time guards, with five working during the day and seven at night.
“Where break-ins have occurred they have been reported to the SAPS,” he said.
Griffiths said a service provider had been appointed to do grass cutting and clearing of the property which is actually scheduled for this week.
“A detailed precinct plan has been developed as part of the commercialisation of the asset. Discussions are being finalised internally on the best commercial model,” he said.
He said the model would explore whether the City ought to do an outright lease or opt for a turnover rental option.
“The council must still grant final approval before the commercialisation process can be undertaken,” he said.